Suicide prevention
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Suicide prevention

Understanding suicidal feelings

Suicidal feelings can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, at any time.

Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn’t mean that you are crazy, or weak, or flawed. It only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now.

Samaritans tell us that the majority of people who feel suicidal do not actually want to die; they do not want to live the life they have. That is why it is so important to seek help and to talk through your options.

With time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and suicidal feelings will pass.

Getting help if you are feeling suicidal

1. If you’re feeling suicidal at this moment, please follow these five immediate steps:

  • Step 1: Promise not to do anything right now

    Even though you’re in a lot of pain right now, give yourself some distance between thoughts and action. Make a promise to yourself: “I will wait 24 hours and won’t do anything drastic during that time.” Or, wait a week.

    Thoughts and actions are two different things—your suicidal thoughts do not have to become a reality. There is no deadline, no one’s pushing you to act on these thoughts immediately. Wait. Wait and put some distance between your suicidal thoughts and suicidal action.

  • Step 2: Avoid drugs and alcohol

    Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger if you have taken drugs or alcohol. It is important to not use nonprescription drugs or alcohol when you feel hopeless or are thinking about suicide.

  • Step 3: Make your home safe

    Remove things you could use to hurt yourself, such as pills, knives or razors.. If you are unable to do so, go to a place where you can feel safe. If you are thinking of taking an overdose, give your medicines to someone who can return them to you one day at a time as you need them.

  • Step 4: Don’t keep these suicidal feelings to yourself

    Many of us have found that the first step to coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings is to share them with someone we trust. It may be a family member, friend, therapist, member of the clergy, family doctor, coach, or an experienced counsellor at the end of a helpline.

    Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. Don’t let fear, shame, or embarrassment prevent you from seeking help. And if the first person you reach out to doesn’t seem to understand, try someone else. Just talking about how you got to this point in your life can release a lot of the pressure that’s building up and help you find a way to cope.

  • Step 5: Take hope – people DO get through this

    Even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now manage to survive these feelings. Take hope in this. There is a very good chance that you are going to live through these feelings, no matter how much hopelessness or isolation you are currently experiencing. Just give yourself the time needed and don’t try to go it alone.

2. Reach out for help

Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time. Reach out to someone. Do it now. If you promised yourself 24 hours or a week in step 1 above, use that time to tell someone what’s going on with you.

Talk to someone who won’t try to argue about how you feel, judge you, or tell you to just “snap out of it.” Find someone who will simply listen and be there for you. This could be a family member or friend or one of the helplines below:

3. Find online information and support

How can I know if someone else might be feeling suicidal?

Everyone is different, but here are some general signs that may suggest a person is in need of help. For some people, several of these signs might apply - for others just one or two, or none.

  • Feeling restless and agitated
  • Feeling angry and aggressive
  • Feeling tearful
  • Being tired or lacking in energy
  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people
  • Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
  • Not replying to messages or being distant
  • Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless
  • Talking about feeling trapped by life circumstances they can’t see a way out of, or feeling unable to escape their thoughts
  • A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating more or less than normal
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviour, like gambling or violence
  • Self-harming

Again, everyone is different, but here are some common situations that may lead to someone having suicidal thoughts:

  • loss, including loss of a friend or a family member through bereavement
  • suicide or attempted suicide of family member, friend or public figure
  • relationship and family problems
  • housing problems
  • financial worries
  • job-related stress
  • college or study-related pressures
  • bullying, abuse or neglect
  • loneliness and isolation
  • challenging current events
  • depression
  • painful and/or disabling physical illness
  • heavy use of or dependency on alcohol or other drugs

How can I help someone who is feeling suicidal?

We all have a role to play in suicide prevention. About 70 percent of people who commit suicide give some sort of verbal or nonverbal clue about their intention to end their life. That means you could be in a position to guide someone to get help before they commit the one action that can never be taken back.

Things you can do:

Organisations offering helplines are listed in the ‘Getting help if you are feeling suicidal’ section above.

If the person is in need of urgent help and cannot keep safe:

  • Call an ambulance on 999 or help them to get to the nearest A&E department.
  • Stay with them if you are able and continue to talk to them if you can
If the person can keep safe for a short while but is still in need of urgent help, you could:

  • dial 111. This is a free service and is open 24/7
  • contact their GP and ask for an emergency appointment

Further information and help

Further information and support services can be found on this website in relation to:

Online training:

  • Zero Suicide Alliance offers free online training which provides a better understanding of the signs to look out for and the skills required to approach someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts.